What is an Equalizer effect?


Equalizer (EQ) pedals, essential yet often understated, play a crucial role in tone shaping for guitarists. They offer precise control over the tonal balance, helping to either correct issues or creatively enhance the guitar's sound.

The History and Evolution of EQ Pedals

EQ pedals emerged from studio technology, adapted for guitarists to refine their live and recorded tones. These pedals have evolved from simple tone controls to sophisticated parametric and graphic EQs. Early EQ units were basic, offering limited control, but modern iterations allow for detailed adjustments across a wide frequency range.

Understanding EQ: The Basics of Tone Shaping

EQ pedals work by boosting or cutting specific frequency ranges in the guitar signal. The key types of EQ include:

  • Graphic EQ: Features sliders for different frequency bands, each slider boosting or cutting its respective frequency.
  • Parametric EQ: Offers control over specific frequencies, allowing you to select a frequency, set the bandwidth (Q), and then boost or cut it.
  • Shelving EQ: This type boosts or cuts all frequencies above or below a certain threshold, creating a 'shelf' effect.

Using these EQ types, guitarists can enhance clarity, add warmth, reduce muddiness, or shape the guitar's tone to fit different musical contexts.

Integrating EQ into Your Setup

The placement of an EQ pedal in the signal chain affects its impact. When placed at the beginning, it shapes the raw guitar signal. Positioned after distortion or overdrive, it can fine-tune the distorted tone. EQ pedals are also useful in the effects loop of an amp for overall tone shaping.

The Interplay with Different Amplifiers and Guitars

EQ pedals can compensate for the tonal characteristics of various amplifiers and guitars. They can brighten a dark amp, add warmth to a bright guitar, or adjust the midrange to stand out in a mix. Each combination of guitar, pedal, and amp will have its unique interplay, requiring different EQ settings.

Notable EQ Pedal Users and Their Settings

  • Brian May (Queen): Known for using a treble booster, effectively a specialized EQ, to emphasize high frequencies for his distinct tone.
  • James Hetfield (Metallica): Hetfield's heavy rhythm tone is partly shaped by EQ pedals, tightening the low end and emphasizing the midrange.
  • Eric Johnson: Famed for his meticulous tone, Johnson uses EQ to fine-tune his already detailed setup, often boosting midrange frequencies for solos.

Advanced Techniques: Crafting Your Signature Sound with EQ

Using EQ creatively can transform your sound. For instance, creating a midrange boost can simulate a cocked wah tone, or a slight cut in the midrange can emulate a 'scooped' metal tone. EQ pedals can also be used to make adjustments for different rooms or amps, ensuring consistent tone.

Choosing Your EQ: Selecting the Right Pedal for Your Needs

The choice of an EQ pedal depends on your tonal goals and setup requirements. Consider the number of bands in a graphic EQ for detailed control, or the versatility of a parametric EQ for surgical adjustments. Noise level and build quality are also important factors.


EQ pedals, while less flashy than other effects, are indispensable in achieving the perfect guitar tone. They offer unparalleled control over your sound, making them a must-have in any guitarist's rig.


Q: How do I use an EQ pedal to reduce feedback? A: Identify the frequency causing feedback, usually a midrange frequency, and use the EQ to cut that specific frequency range.

Q: Can an EQ pedal be used as a boost? A: Yes, by increasing the overall level or boosting certain frequencies, an EQ pedal can function as a boost for solos or specific sections.

Q: What's the difference between using an amp’s EQ and a pedal EQ? A: An amp's EQ generally offers broader control over the basic tone, while a pedal can provide more detailed adjustments and flexibility, especially useful for adjusting pre-distorted signals or for use in an effects loop.

Q: Can EQ pedals be used with acoustic guitars? A: Yes, EQ pedals are effective with acoustic-electric guitars, particularly for live performances where they can help shape the guitar's tone to suit different rooms and PA systems.

Q: How do I set an EQ pedal for a more pronounced midrange? A: To enhance the midrange, boost the frequencies around 800 Hz to 1 kHz, and consider a slight cut in the low and high frequencies to make the mids stand out more.

Q: Are there specific EQ pedals recommended for beginners? A: For beginners, a simple graphic EQ pedal like the Boss GE-7 or the MXR M109S Six Band EQ is a great starting point, offering intuitive controls and a clear visual representation of the EQ curve.

Q: Can I use an EQ pedal to reduce feedback with an acoustic guitar? A: Yes, an EQ pedal can help reduce feedback by cutting frequencies that are prone to feedback, typically in the lower-mid to midrange area.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.